Diaspora Demo Day Is A Way For African Tech Startups To Pitch To U.S. Investors

Diaspora Demo Day Is A Way For African Tech Startups To Pitch To U.S. Investors

Starting your own business is daunting. It’s an uphill battle at first — finding funding, convincing others to believe in your dream, going from idea to reality. A partnership between Tiphub, an Africa-focused accelerator, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, hopes to give African entrepreneurial dreamers in the diaspora a helping hand.

Chinedu Enekwe is Tiphub’s executive director and co-founder. A Wall Street lawyer and investment banker, he became an analyst for U.S. President Barack Obama’s Power Africa Initiative and the World Bank. Tiphub started in Washington, D.C. in 2014. Operating from Nigeria, it has provided an on-the-ground presence in West Africa. Through Tiphub, Enekwe supports African and diaspora entrepreneurs.

Diaspora Demo Day 2016 will give African startups an opportunity to pitch in front of U.S. investors and take part in a six-week program — the second time the event has taken place.

But first, potential entrepreneurs must apply. The application deadline is Aug. 31. Application screening teams will hold interviews Sept. 1-Sept. 10. The chosen ones will be matched with a mentor, and there will be venture capitalist-led startup virtual workshops. A three-day summit Nov. 10 to Nov. 12 will include workshops and networking receptions at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C.

The end result? Program participants will be able to pitch their idea to potential investors. In fact, the pitches will be in front of an audience of 300-plus angels, venture capital and impact investors, innovation enthusiasts, fellow entrepreneurs, industry experts, and a panel of judges for a chance to win an assortment of prizes.

Diaspora Demo Pitch applications are open to people age 18 or older with a tech-enabled company based in, focused on or with one or more founders from Africa, the African diaspora or of African descent.

There are other criteria. The startup cannot be older than 2 years. Any investment the startup has previously received cannot exceed $500,000. The startup must have a demonstrable product or service. Founders must be willing to pitch their idea on stage in English (or with a translator) and must be willing and able to obtain a U.S. visa. The program encourages startups in such sectors as health, education, job preparedness, smart energy, logistics, fintech, agritech or enabling marketplaces to apply.

AFKInsider: Who created this program?

Chinedu Enekwe: Diaspora Demo is organized by Tiphub. Tiphub’s founding partners are Amanda Spann, Bayo Dawodu, Chika Umeadi, and myself. The key aspects the founding partners of Tiphub have in common besides entrepreneurial spirit, is our shared vision of utilizing technology to create impact, employment and wealth for African and diaspora communities.

AFKInsider:  How was it created?

Chinedu Enekwe: Tiphub created this event during one of our team meetings where all the partners acknowledged the absence of tool kits for entrepreneurs creating an impact in Africa to get funding and meet to exchange knowledge. Tiphub felt we could create such an accelerator that shared the knowledge and introduced the investors to the growing opportunity for impact investing in Africa.

AFKInsider: Why is it necessary?

Chinedu Enekwe: We’ve realized that Diaspora Demo is crucial for the startup ecosystem to ensure ideas and experience are shared cross borders and impact capital is channeled to the founders with the greatest potential for growth and impact. Beyond the startups and investors that participate in the pitch competition, Diaspora Demo is a central component of sparking innovation in the African diaspora and Africa. Tiphub recognized this community aspect being key (from) feedback we received and decided to expand the programming to include a summit with entrepreneurship workshops, mentor mixers, a movie screening, and a featured speaker for community outreach.

AFKInsider: How did Tiphub get to be connected with the U.S. Chamber?

Chinedu Enekwe: Tiphub maintains strong relationships with trade groups that support cross-border African business initiatives. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce supported Tiphub early on in Diaspora Demo 1.0, providing Danielle Walker (Senior director of African affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) as a panelist to evaluate startup pitches. They’ve doubled down on their support of African innovation by hosting this year’s Diaspora Demo.

AFKInsider: Is Tiphub based in the U.S.?

Chinedu Enekwe: Tiphub’s residency portion of its accelerator is based in the U.S., however they plan their programs to support the entire diaspora and Africa. So they have coordinated events, supported and facilitated investments for startups globally.

AFKInsider: What will participants get from the program?

Chinedu Enekwe: The startups that apply and are selected in the Diaspora Demo accelerator will get startup mentors, tons of free resources including some from Facebook’s FBStart program (a new program from Facebook designed to help early stage mobile startups build and grow their apps), introductions to impact capital investors, potential corporate partnerships, other cohort founders in addition to Diaspora Demo alumni. Entrepreneurs who are not selected can still attend the workshops which are hosted by VCs like Accion Venture Lab. Other participants will get one of the most inspiring experiences in entrepreneurship.

AFKInsider: How long was the idea in the making?

Chinedu Enekwe: This being our second edition, we took a bit more time in putting it together so we could add more value to the startups that participate and also to the people that attend.

AFKInsider: How are the participants selected?

Chinedu Enekwe: Startups applications are open till Aug. 31. Tiphub is reviewing applications based on the strength of the team, the product, market size and fit, and potential impact. Our key focal points are based upon how much value we can add plus our mentor and investor network.

AFKInsider: What are the goals for the program?

Chinedu Enekwe: The key goal or theme of Diaspora Demo 2.0 is “rapid growth for all” so we hope to see many founders that key into how their product and company will create a more inclusive economy.